With early voting officially beginning later this week in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, some of the most interesting contests on your local ballot involve the school board.
The candidates are talking about universal issues — Common Core standards (most don't like them); parental involvement (or lack thereof); the emphasis (or over-emphasis) on standardized testing.
But other issues are specific to the counties. In Pinellas, there's lots of talk about adding more fundamental schools, and finding remedies to improve some of the worst reading scores in the state. In Hillsborough, tragedies in 2012 regarding two special needs students have put a stark focus on how the district's transportation department handles such students, and on Superintendent MaryEllen Elia's leadership.
At a school board candidates forum held yesterday at the John P. Germany Library in downtown Tampa, every candidate who appeared (Sally Harris, Michael Weston, April Griffin, Dipa Shah, Lee Sierra, Allison Fernandez) was critical of Elia when her name came up (Paula Meckley appeared for part of the event but was not around to discuss Elia).
Because I was serving as moderator of the event, I wasn't taking notes and thus can't give you any juicy quotes. But trust me, the sentiment toward the superintendent (who has been in charge in Hillsborough for a decade) is very, very negative, particularly with respect to her lack of clear communications and transparency.
In other news…
Speaking of the school board race, over the weekend Hillsborough school board candidate Dipa Shah was the victim of a racist mailer
sent out to households in the eastern part of the county. Although Shah is backed by some of the biggest Republicans in the county, the direct mail piece accuses her of representing liberal "special interests."
On Sunday morning television, the usual suspects
were in their usual places — that being John McCain and Lindsey Graham (with Peter King of New York added for good measure) eviscerating President Obama for dropping the ball on the whole ISIS/ISIL conflict in Iraq/Syria.
And Democrats and gay rights groups spent Friday sending out statements blasting Pam Bondi
for her decision to punt on the issue of whether the ban on same-sex marriage in Florida is constitutional. The AG says she'll wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue, which may not be for another 10-11 months if the justices do decide to rule on the issue.